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This month Raptitude will turn four years old. Some of you were here right from the first few awkward posts, a time when all of my subscribers could fit in a school bus. But now the regulars alone could fill an NHL arena, along with enough casual readers to form a pretty scary mob in the surrounding parking area.

The numbers are big enough to be abstract to me now, and when I think of Raptitude’s readership I’m usually still thinking of the same few dozen faces (or avatars) that were on that original schoolbus. So I sometimes forget that a good proportion of you are quite new, and we’ve never been properly introduced.

My name is David. I’m a 32 year-old Canadian. I write about creating moment-to-moment quality of life, mostly by reframing how we look at the world and its people.

It has worked for me. Unbelievably well. Every year I reach a new level of confidence and ease. If the Me of 2012 could travel back in time, he would make short work of the problems suffered by the Me of 2011. This is the kind of growth I expect of myself every year now, and I want you to expect that too.

Whether they read this blog or not, everyone is interested in that: more ease, more perspective, more self-dependability — to know how to be less needy, less unstable, less worried.

For people actively interested in personal growth, the existing reading material tends to settle into two slightly overlapping camps. There are the “summon the winner within” people you find in the audience at Tony Robbins events, and the spiritual/new-age people who talk in soft voices about meditating and manifesting things.

People do get lots of mileage out of these camps, but I think the greater proportion of people don’t really want to live in either one. On Raptitude I borrow what I’ve learned from both and pass on what works, but I don’t really like the tone of either one. They just feel too forceful a lot of the time. Most of us don’t want to become practicing Buddhists, or recite affirmations into the mirror every morning, and we don’t believe that’s what happy people do.

For me it’s about cultivating personal perspectives that work internally, for you, better than what you’ve been prescribed by society (or by Tony Robbins, for that matter.) In my experience, the conventional ways of life that most of us inherit from our parents, our religions and our cultural norms make for lives that are many times harder than they have to be, and much less rewarding. I feel like I’m about twenty times better at life than I was ten years ago, but only because I made a point of it.  Read More

Post image for Five self-help books that actually helped

There’s something about self-help that is fundamentally uncool. Being into coin-collecting or Dungeons & Dragons is an order of magnitude more socially acceptable than having titles like “How to Get People to Like You” and “You Can Be Happy No Matter What!” staring out from your bookshelf.

Somehow it isn’t yet obvious that a persistent interest in self-improvement is probably the defining trait of the interesting and accomplished person. Self-help literature, though, is a particular kind of self-improvement. Turning to self-help is admitting you don’t quite know how to drive a regular human life. It’s like designating yourself with a voluntary “special needs” status.

I don’t think the need for some intentional re-balancing is special though. None of us are born knowing how to drive. It’s probably not unusual to feel like you’ve never been taught quite how to steer a human life competently, but it may be unusual to admit.

I think what makes us most suspicious of self-help is that we’ve all seen people who are constantly absorbing it and not changing a thing. There are self-help junkies out there — people who get high on the feeling that their life is improving simply by reading the book, yet never actually address their habits in everyday life. They get high on the feeling of possibility, and when the feeling fades they buy another.

Their mistake is simple: they’re missing the “self” part of self-help. Insights by themselves are useless without action, which is what changes lives. But you can get the self-help high just by reading, and that high is enough to make you feel (for the moment) that nothing needs fixing.

The self-help junkie habit is obvious and ugly to everyone else, and so the whole genre is reviled for its empty promises, rather than the reader for his total lack of responsibility. Consequently, self-help remains so uncool that even hipsters won’t touch it.  Read More

Post image for The Straight Dope on Kiva

Last post I talked about having mixed feelings about donating money to charity. Society’s prevailing attitude is that giving money is always helpful, and is always motivated by genuine altruism. I’m not so sure about either, and I know I’m not alone.

My suggestion for people who feel that way was to find a cause you can give to with your whole heart, without reservations. I hinted that I had found such a cause to give to, one that doesn’t make me feel condescending, or unsure of whether I’m actually helping.

It actually isn’t a charity. It’s a non-profit that facilitates small loans to small-time entrepreneurs around the world. Teresa needs $750 to properly stock her general store in Paraguay. Sergio, a furniture maker in Mexico, needs $425 to buy a reserve of wood so he can fill more orders.

These are independent entrepreneurs who probably wouldn’t otherwise have had access to any kind of financing. With a small loan, a hardworking individual can get a business off the ground, or help it become profitable.

The organization is called Kiva and I’m sure many of you have heard of it by now. Rather than donating money, you lend. You choose an entrepreneur, read their story and their business goals, and send them a no-interest loan, as little as $25. Nearly 99% of the loans will be repaid to you, usually within a year. You can then use that money to loan to another entrepreneur, donate to Kiva’s operating costs, or even cash it out and walk away with it.

By lending, rather than donating, you can help to create a self-sustaining source of income for these people. It builds economies and empowers people to support themselves, rather than depend on aid.

The three primary values Kiva is trying to promote are:

Dignity — by creating an equal-ground, partnership-type relationship between you and the person you lend to, rather than a downward, benefactor-type relationship. This promotes dignity on both sides.

Accountability — Because repayment is expected, these loans create accountability where a donation would not. Each borrower enters the relationship with the expectation of the recipient becoming self-sustaining financially.

Transparency — Kiva prides itself on being open about its operations and the financial transactions involved in an attempt to avoid some of the cloudiness people perceive in some traditional charitable organizations.

This article was supposed to wrap up around here, with an earnest appeal to lend through Kiva if you are feeling weary or ambivalent about traditional charities. But I did a bit of research, and although Kiva advocates transparency, it might not be quite what it appears at first. I want to make sure all the cards are on the table, so that people can contribute without reservations. Read More

Post image for Five Useful Headless Resources

Well it turns out there’s been much more interest in Douglas Harding’s Headless Way than I initially thought. I’ve had quite a few lengthy comments and a lot more emails than normal. Evidently Headlessness has struck a chord with a lot of you, and people have a lot of questions.

I can’t explain everything about it here though, for three reasons. First of all, I don’t want to write about the same topic for too long because I know not everyone is interested. Secondly, I can’t do nearly as good a job describing headlessness as Douglas Harding can and already has. And finally, this is a method of self-enquiry, which means you’ll have to do most of the exploring and experimenting yourself to get the most out of it.

So here are five excellent resources on headlessness, all available from your computer chair. Read More

Post image for Headlessness FAQ

This is the fourth article in a series about Douglas Harding’s method of self-inquiry, called headlessness. The others are here: [Post one] [Post two] [Post three]

In the previous article, I described Harding’s discovery that he, in his first-person, singular, present-tense experience, did not have a head. He insists that anyone who gives it an honest, unbiased look, will find the same thing.

Obviously it’s a preposterous claim, and it raises some questions. Here are the most common sticking points.

What is the point of this?

The point is to experience your true nature instead of just experiencing your thoughts about your true nature.

We tend to see ourselves as what our thoughts tell us we are: separate, finite bodies, tiny compared to the world we inhabit.

Nearly all of your ideas about who you are have been derived from views of you at a distance, either from other people’s accounts, or from mirrors and cameras.

From a distance of a few meters, you do appear to be a finite thing in the midst of other finite things. From zero distance, your appearance is very different, but we tend to disregard what we see ourselves to be, in favor of what we’ve learned ourselves to be from non-first-hand sources. This collection of learnings is called the ego, and most people will never suspect that it isn’t who they are. All of it is second-hand, past-tense, misleading information about who you are, observed from angles that cannot possibly see what you see.

All the major spiritual teachings inevitably point to nonduality — that there is no real separation between you and the universe around you. Many people suspect this is true, believe it is true, or want it to be true, yet it remains only an interesting concept for most.

What the Headless Way (or “headlessness”) allows you to do is to see nonduality plainly. You can physically see the seamlessness between you and the universe that contains you. This has huge implications for our relationships with others, the ego’s negative effects on our lives, human evolution and a lot more. Read More


This is part 2 of a two-part post. The first half is here.

Let’s continue, shall we? Things may get a bit rowdier here in the second half. But as before, there’s something for everyone.

“Need You Tonight” – INXS

Looking back to the decade that produced me, there was a point when all the ridiculous fluff of the mid-80s gave way to some really timeless, inspired tunes. I figure it was about the time Kick came out. Still one of the grooviest guitar riffs I know, this song was ultra-cool on arrival and still is. It makes non-dancers want to dance.

If you like it: The rest of Kick is worth a listen. Consult an INXS die-hard for further instruction.

“Jolene” – Dolly Parton

A heartbreaking song about a girl watching her man drift away to a woman she can’t compete with. There is something so refreshing and honest about a song that looks unflinchingly at personal powerlessness, without dolling it up by babbling about hope. We’ve all been devastated by a Jolene of some kind, in one way or another. Utter defeat is human too, and Dolly saw something meaningful in it.

If you like it: The White Stripes do a fantastic cover of this song, mercifully ignoring the obnoxious custom of changing the gender when a male sings it. Check it out.   Read More

guitar and dandelion

One of my earliest (and to date most successful) posts was Six Songs that Illustrate What it Means to Be Human. Many readers said they hadn’t heard some of these tunes before, and really liked them. I’ve since received a number of requests to post a list of my favorite songs.

So here it is. But first a few quick things:

Choosing my forty outright favorite songs is not really possible. I can’t recall every song I love at any given time, so I can never be sure I’m not omitting something. Therefore this is a list of forty of my favorite songs. Some songs are very well known. Most aren’t, but I didn’t take the indie-snob route and give you forty small-time artists you’ve never heard of and won’t “get” because you aren’t cool enough. I happily included songs and artists that are decidedly uncool. (You’ll see.) You’ll find this list to be a bit 90s-heavy, which just reflects my age and tastes. But there’s something for everyone.

Each song links to a place where you can listen to it. Most point to Youtube, and some are on Mp3Raid.com. On the latter site you just have to enter the code they show, no need for signing up or anything. Let me know if any links are broken.

This is part one of a two-part post. Part two will be posted on Monday.


“Grandma’s Hands” – Bill Withers

An unbelievably catchy tune. Members of my generation might think they’re listening to Blackstreet for the first few bars. It will get stuck in your head, beware! You’ll be snapping, clapping, head-bobbing or shoulder-dipping to Billy’s vivid memories of his sweet old grandma.

If you like it: go find Bill Withers’ version of Use Me, probably better known as an Aaron Neville song. I think Bill did it best.

“The Seeker” – The Who

The taking-life-back anthem of Lester Burnham, the pot-smoking, career-ditching mid-life revolutionary from American Beauty. It’s a straight-laced rock tune, with a comedic take on the biggest of all human themes. It characterizes the search for life’s meaning as a mocking, hopeless conundrum, through the eyes of a regular joe who sees no reason why it shouldn’t make perfect sense. And with a guitar riff like that, it’s hard to see it any other way.

If you like it: I’m no Who expert, but you could do worse than giving My Generation (the album) a good listen. Read More


Some of you may have run across this already, but I’ve got an article published in an inspirational ebook called Reasons for Hope. It was very early on in my blogging career that I wrote my contribution, but the book was only released fairly recently. It contains 23 pieces by 17 writers, including some of my most talented friends, Lisis Blackston and Jay Schryer.

Within the broad theme of hope, it contains everything from smileworthy short stories to straightforward how-to’s. I haven’t read all of them but I’m pleased to be among such a solid lineup. Throughout the pages you’ll find a whole palette of ways to spin silk from suffering. If you’re looking for a place to start (other than the beginning) I think Rey Carr’s The “Right” Wrong Number exemplifies the book’s message perfectly.

The book is completely free and you can find it here.

My effort is called The Two Spells of Nausea That Changed My Life, on page 54. I hope you enjoy. If it makes you feel uneasy, take two Gravol and plenty of fluids.

Photo by Cutglassdreamer

Post image for The List

As promised, here is what I plan to do before I die. This list is now a permanent addition to Raptitude.com, and the most up-to-date version can be found by clicking “The List” tab on the top of any page.

If you want to make your own list, here is the comprehensive guide to making one that you will honor.

A few notes:

You’ll notice my list is very travel-heavy. One of my major goals in life is to achieve a location-independent income, which will allow me to move around the globe without the constraint of limited vacation days. Without the intention to live this kind of lifestyle, my list would not be realistic to me and I’d probably soon forget about it. I have tried to eliminate redundancies, but some are inevitable. I want to see the Louvre and tour Paris, but it is unlikely I’ll do one and not the other. Still, both are important and I don’t want to leave either off my list. The list is not complete. I cannot be sure I’ve thought of everything that deserves to be on it, but this is a pretty good start.

Here goes.   Read More

Coffee and rain

Six years ago, when I lived in a snowy mountain village and paid my bills by cleaning high-end sinks and toilets, someone said something that prompted me to confront an uncomfortable truth about myself.

A well-meaning coworker mentioned that she had been talking to another housekeeper about me.  Oh?

“She said, ‘David is a such great guy to work with, it’s just that he’s just so quiet.‘”

I don’t remember how I responded, but I assume I tried to disagree somehow, and went back to my work hoping nobody would ever say that to me again. Read More

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